Whether you focus on wildlife conservation, human rights, or the performing arts in public education, your advocacy organization plays an important role in influencing public opinion and, ultimately, policy.
But the reality of being part of an advocacy organization is that fundraising dollars fuel your ability to conduct activities—like doing diligent research, creating educational materials, and organizing events—that move the needle on the issues you care about.
No matter the current state of your fundraising strategy, whether you’re consistently exceeding your annual fundraising goal or falling short of where you want to land with smaller campaigns, your approach can always benefit from some fine-tuning.
In this short explainer, we’ll walk through five tips for better advocacy organization fundraising that you can use to improve your own strategy. Let’s begin!
1. Workshop your organization’s fundraising strategy.
Start by taking a critical look at your current fundraising strategy in order to assess what is and isn’t working. After all, you can’t plan out where you want to go without understanding where you’ve been.
Here are some elements to begin examining:
- Past fundraising successes and challenges
- The goals you have for upcoming fundraising campaigns
- The messaging and storytelling you use for fundraising
- The giving tools you currently use
- Your current approach to donor recognition and retention
Additionally, Donorly’s fundraising strategy guide recommends that you assess your team’s strengths and resources. In particular, your team should ask itself about the following areas:
- Prospect research: Prospecting is essential for identifying major donors. Does your team have the necessary tools and know-how to conduct prospect research in-house?
- Marketing: It’s best practice to use multiple marketing channels to get the word out about fundraisers, with a focus on the channels that your organization’s supporters frequently use and prefer. Will your team be creating promotional materials or will you need to budget for working with independent contractors?
- Event planning: Whether you’re hosting a full-fledged fundraising event, or planning an event as part of a larger fundraising campaign, there are a lot of moving pieces to keep in mind. Does your team have the bandwidth to handle the planning process and produce an event that will be memorable and successful?
Many advocacy organizations discover gaps in their team’s capacity in these three areas, especially smaller organizations. You may find that the most efficient approach is to work with an outside expert for these tasks. For example, you may want to partner with a fundraising event planner to take event logistics off of your team’s plate.
2. Try a new type of fundraiser.
As you consider how to tighten up your fundraising strategy, you may find that some of your fundraising ideas feel a little stale. Maybe you run the same campaign each year and want to freshen things up a little—after all, you want to keep your supporters interested and excited about your campaigns!
Here are a few ideas for you to consider:
- Peer-to-peer fundraising (P2P): A P2P campaign is a popular online fundraiser that involves your supporters becoming volunteer fundraisers! Each volunteer creates their own fundraising page and then shares it with their personal networks. You can add a little friendly competition to the experience by displaying a fundraising leaderboard on your main campaign page.
- Matching gifts drive: Matching gifts are a form of corporate philanthropy in which employers financially match their employees’ charitable contributions (usually at a 1:1 ratio), essentially doubling an individual’s donation! Many individuals aren’t aware of their matching gift eligibility, so a matching gifts drive gives you the chance to educate your supporters about this opportunity and pull in double the amount of support. You can make the process even easier by leveraging a matching gift tool with auto-submission capabilities.
- eCards: According to Fundraising Letters, charity eCards allow your donors to make a donation on behalf of a friend or family member and send them a message, which not only benefits your organization but also helps to spread the message of your cause. The process works like this: Your donor selects an eCard, adds the recipient’s contact information, and makes a donation. Once the donation is completed, the eCard is sent to the recipient.
There are thousands of fundraising ideas out there, from branded merchandise sales to creative events like walk-a-thons and cooking classes. Consider what your target audience would best respond to, and the types of fundraisers you can connect to the larger focus of your organization.
3. Emphasize impactful storytelling in your marketing efforts.
With any fundraising effort, how you talk about your cause matters. And one of the best ways to talk about the importance of your advocacy work is to lean into impactful storytelling in your marketing efforts.
For example, say your organization is focused on championing the performing arts in public education, and you want to inspire giving during an upcoming campaign by sharing the story of how your advocacy efforts positively affected someone’s life. To tell that story, you would want to identify:
- A main character whose journey your target audience can be invested in: In our performing arts example, your character could be a high school student named Melanie who cares deeply about the role that the arts play in education and self-expression.
- A problem the main character faces: Melanie might observe that the local school board has cut the performing arts budget for her high school, impacting the school’s ability to employ a full-time drama teacher and to produce a spring play.
- The solution to your problem and how your organization and its community played a role: Your organization could step in to help advocate for the performing arts at Melanie’s high school, collecting petition signatures to restore the performing arts budget and helping the PTA organize a fundraiser to put on the spring play.
- Descriptive details that immerse your audience in the story: You could describe the sights, sounds, and feelings in the room when Melanie takes the stage for her lead role in the spring play.
No matter the specifics of the narrative arc you want to share, remember that you’ll need to adapt your stories for different audiences and formats. For example, your stories might take a different form in an Instagram post than they do on your website.
4. Focus on relationship-building throughout your campaigns.
Fundraising can sometimes feel transactional. However, the best campaigns will help you not only raise money to keep your advocacy organization in operation but also empower you to connect with your supporters and build stronger relationships with them.
Whether you’re working with major donors or one-time donors who give smaller gifts, consider how you can create opportunities for connection during your campaigns. For example, you might:
- Personalize your communications with the recipient's names and the impact of their involvement or donations
- Interact one-on-one with supporters during events
- Promptly send thank-you notes or follow-up messages
- Seek feedback on your campaign after it concludes
Of course, whenever you have a touchpoint with a supporter, it will be an opportunity to talk about your organization’s work. But remember to also be invested in the supporter as an individual. If you chat with them at a fundraising event, for example, ask them about their family or what’s going on at work. This will humanize your organization and make your supporters feel seen and respected as people.
5. Track campaign metrics to guide future fundraising.
By tracking campaign metrics, you can set yourself up for future fundraising success. Metrics give you specific values to point to when you ask questions like, “Was our fundraiser profitable?” or “Is it worth it to conduct this campaign again next year?”
Here are some metrics you can track for each campaign you run:
- Cost Per Dollar Raised (CPDR): This metric tells you whether you made money, lost money, or broke even with your campaign. Divide total campaign expenses by total campaign revenue to calculate it.
- Average Gift Size: This metric tells you the average donation amount given during a campaign. To find it, total up the dollar amount of all the donations you received during the campaign and divide that number by the number of gifts you received.
- Matching Gift Rate: This metric tells you the percentage of contributions matched through corporate matching gift programs. Start by dividing the number of donors who secured a donation match by the total number of donors from your campaign. Multiply the result by 100 to yield a percentage.
- Donor Retention Rate: This metric tells you how many donors your organization retains from one campaign to the next. Find it by dividing the number of donors who gave during your last campaign by the number of donors who gave during your present campaign. Multiply the result by 100 to yield a percentage.
Metrics like these can also help you stay accountable to your organization’s stakeholders. For example, if you’re preparing a presentation for your board of directors about your fundraising success, having concrete numbers to work with can strengthen your claims and set the stage for discussing achievable fundraising goals for the future.
Advocacy organizations rely on fundraising dollars to keep doing the important work of raising awareness for important causes and encouraging political action. Use these five tips to examine your own fundraising strategy and identify areas for positive change today!
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